Monday, December 20, 2010
From the South Carolina Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct:
OPINION NO. 13-2010
A recently elected full-time Probate Judge inquires into the propriety of continuing employment with a funeral home. The Judge is a licensed funeral director and a licensed “pre-need” insurance agent employed by a local funeral home. The Judge indicates that continued employment with the funeral home would not involve the selling of funeral merchandise, services, or pre-need insurance, but instead would require the judge to work a limited number of hours, primarily on the weekend, in a “support role” assisting other directors and staff members with funeral and memorial services.
A full-time Probate Judge should not continue employment with a funeral home.
A judge may be employed by a business entity if that service does not conflict with the judge’s judicial duties Rule 501, SCACR, Canon 4D(3). The Commentary to Canon 4D(3) states that a judge may be prohibited from participation in the business entity if “participation requires significant time away from judicial duties.” Additionally, a full-time judge should not accept other employment without permission of the entity employing him or her as judge.
Furthermore, in this situation, the Judge’s other employment involves contact with family members of deceased individuals and those family members are likely to appear before the Probate Court. Under Canon 4.D(1)(b), a judge should not engage in business or financial activities that would involve frequent transactions with persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves. Therefore, a full-time Probate Judge should not continue employment with a funeral home.